Drones will remain off limits to state agencies for the next 15 months.
But that’s only a consolation prize for state residents and their lawmakers who overwhelmingly supported legislation this year that would require all law enforcement to obtain search warrants for use of drones over private property.
Gov. Jay Inslee vetoed a bipartisan bill Friday that would have prevented state and local agencies from using unmanned drones for surveillance. Former Twisp resident Clay Hill, a member of the Liberty Caucus, helped draft the legislation using language that would have kept intact the right to privacy guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.
The bill provided a common-sense approach to drone use. But apparently, Inslee believes state agencies shouldn’t have to live by the rules demanded by voters.
Instead, Inslee thinks his moratorium – which does not apply to local or federal agencies – should satisfy privacy rights advocates while he creates a task force to study drone issues.
The moratorium fails to acknowledge the partnerships between local, state and federal authorities. It also fails to acknowledge the potential abuse of aerial drones carrying high-resolution cameras and a variety of sensors that can be flown over private property.
Inslee said he takes the issue of protecting our right to privacy seriously. But his veto directly contradicts his half-hearted statement.
Had he signed the bill, all local and state agencies would have been required to get an extra approval to purchase drones and obtain a court order to use them on or over private property. The bill would also have required drone-obtained information to be disclosed in accordance with the state Open Public Records Act.
Now, voters will have to settle for asking local government agencies, including law enforcement, to abide by Inslee’s non-binding request.
Inslee’s poor decision to veto the drone bill puts residents’ right to privacy at continued risk. At best, the veto was short-sighted and naïve.
Voters deserve a governor who will protect their constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy. And they deserve the ability to restrict the use of drones over their property.